From the sea to the store

Feature Story - 6 September, 2011
While we tuck into our tuna sandwich, our oceans are being plundered at an alarming rate.

The UN predicts that if we don’t change how we fish, we won’t have any fish left by 2050. Greenpeace’s campaign to defend the Pacific Ocean and safeguard marine biodiversity travels from the sea to the store. Right now we’re taking action at both ends to protect the world’s favourite fish - tuna.

From the sea...

Our ship the MV Esperanza and crew are currently patrolling tuna fishing grounds in the Pacific for illegal and unregulated fishing fleets. These unregulated fleets escalate the damage already caused by industrial fishing techniques. Such techniques mean fish stocks are plummeting faster than they can replenish.

One technique we’re trying to eradicate is the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) teamed up with giant nets. FADs - which act like big magnets - are left out at sea, attracting huge schools of tuna as well as other marine life such as turtles, dolphins and sharks. Fishing fleets return to the FAD and sweep up everything into vast nets the size of several city blocks. The unwanted sharks and other marine life are then tossed back into the ocean, dead or dying.

In Australia, we out-fished our tuna fisheries decades ago. Now fishing fleets - mostly from Taiwan and east Asian nations - are targeting the diminishing Pacific stocks. The tuna is then processed in Thailand before shipped to Australia where our canned tuna industry makes a cool $330 million a year. the store

Our favourite tuna brands play a key role in the overfishing crisis. By changing how they source their tuna, they can help reverse the decline of our seas.

Greenpeace has launched a canned tuna guide to help you make an informed choice. Most of us have no idea how or where our tuna is caught, but helping people understand what exactly is in their can is vital to the survival of the species.

While we are informing consumers, we’re pressuring tuna brands to make the right choice. And they do have a choice. Tuna brands can choose to not buy tuna caught using destructive FADs, they can choose to not buy threatened tuna species, they can ensure their tuna comes from legal and regulated sources and they can be transparent so consumers can make an informed choice.

In the UK, every major tuna player chose to ban the use of FADs, supplying the whole market with sustainably caught fish. In Australia, thanks to the pressure applied by Greenpeace and supporters, the brands are also starting to shif - but too slowly.

Time is fast running out. Already five out of eight tuna species are threatened, with some on the verge of extinction. Yet we still have the chance - and the choice - to change our tuna.

TAKE ACTION: Write to Australian tuna brands